We have a deep affinity for Spain, but there are some unique quirks and foibles about its people, customs, and culture that we find curious. Clichés form for a reason, and while some of these might be a little exaggerated, we’ve seen all these behaviours in our time in Spain.
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The Spanish are known for their outgoing spirit and their laissez-faire attitude to life. Plans are flexible and things that aren’t done today can be always be done tomorrow. This mañana attitude is sometimes misconstrued as apathy, but in truth, days and nights are lived to the full in Spain.
We love you, Spain – please don’t change.
Many restaurants don’t open for dinner until 8pm
Spanish people dine far later than most other nationalities. It’s not unusual to see people sitting down for the evening meal (called cena in Spanish) at 10pm or later. If you want to dine in the early evening, I’m afraid its only tourist restaurants or fast food chains for you. Of course, you can always grab some tapas to tide you over.
Spanish people can socialise until 2am and still get up for work the next day
The Spanish are typically sociable and outgoing. The bar and club scene in Spain’s big cities is among the best in the world. Spaniards can stay out late, hugging and kissing their friends, with loud shouts of “Hola, muchacho!” until the early morning and still get up bright and early the next day. It’s this work hard, play hard mentality that makes Spain such a fun place to live.
The shops close for several hours in the afternoon
Siesta is the famed midday break that last for a few hours during the hottest hours of the day. There are plenty of historical reasons for the siesta (which we won’t bore you with) but the chance to have a long lunch, a glass of wine, and a refreshing snooze is fine by us.
It can, however, be quite challenging to find something to eat, or even purchase simple goods from a convenience store between 2pm to 4pm. In the big cities, the concept of a midday nap is losing prominence, but in rural towns and villages, the siesta is an enshrined tradition.
Queues are often optional
This is a divisive one, but if you’ve ever waited for a bus in Spain I think you would agree. Spain just doesn’t do patient, orderly lines. Also, it’s not unusual to see someone jump a queue in the supermarket if they only have 1 item to buy and you have a full trolley.
Football takes priority
It doesn’t matter if it’s a graduation, a wedding, or a diamond jubilee, if Spain is playing an important football match it must be watched. If it’s your party, you better pray for a victory so that everyone is in a party spirit. It’s a similar story for the biggest domestic game of the season – El Classico, when Barca and Real Madrid play for dominance. Football is like a religion over here.
Service is something that shouldn’t be rushed
Unlike other cultures where service should be snappy and come with a smile, you’ll find things slower and lacking in forced niceties in many places in Spain. It’s sometimes difficult to pull the staff’s attention away from the television. Of course, there are many committed staff in Spain, but just don’t expect perky service from your waiter or waitress as the norm and you won’t be disappointed.
They have the craziest festivals
Many nations have kooky festivals but, for our money, Spain has an unsurpassed collection of celebrations that sound almost too strange to be real. Consider La Tomatina, a 10,000-person-strong tomato fight, or running with bulls in Pamplona. How about witnessing a bunch of men covered head-to-toe in moss and weeds, staggering around like ghouls? Spain has some truly bizarre and immensely fun festivals.
Spanish people spend most of their lives outside
Tapping into that sociable spirit, Spaniards spend far more time outside than cooped up at home. Whether enjoying a coffee with friends, relaxing on the beach, or enjoying a stroll through the town square, life is to be lived outside.
In the early evening, when the cool breeze flows through the streets, it’s common to see people pull their chairs outside for a bit of people-watching, gossiping with friends, and generally just enjoying life. Why would you lock yourself in a stuffy room when you live in a country blessed with a warm and dry Mediterranean climate?
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